The article below is an impression of the unearthing and re-earthing of skeletons and bones of a number of deceased people at Banjar Bodong, Ped, Nusa Penida. All photographs courtesy Friends of the National Parks Foundation, 2007.
Unusual burial site
In 2005, the FNPF team found the remains of a number of people whilst working on the construction of the Nusa Penida Bird Sanctary at Ped. The cause of death, the reason for this unusual burial (site), the date of burial, the number of skeltons found and the position of these skeletons must all remain unanswered questions. Were they of the sudra caste, or perhaps convicts or exiled people from mainland Bali? This burial might be linked to a pandemic (malaria, cholera?), which struck this area just before or shortly after the Second World War, as the area of Ped at the time was a large swamp infested with mosquitoes.
Below is a rendering of interviews and personal correspondence with Bayu Wirayudha (FNPF Director), Made 'Bombom' Widana & I Made 'Tjakil' Sugiarta, both former FNPF team members.
Skeletons at Bodong, Ped
Bombom: "One regular morning sometime back in the beginning of 2005, we were digging a hole for a new septic tank at the back of our front toilet and kitchen, close to the wall and small gate near the quarantine cage for the Bali Starling. Then, one of the diggers found something hard at approximately 1,5m depth. He took a closer look and suddenly jumped! This shocked us as we were filling polybags just close to the place where we were digging the hole.
The digger was an old man called Pak Gama, father of Pak Kentung, and told me he saw a skull down in the pit. So, to make sure, Pak Monik and I jumped down the hole and tried to clear it in order to get a good look at the skull. Slowly and gently we removed bits of sand (nearly all of the soil there is sand), which still stuck to the skull. When we cleared the bottom of the pit, we found parts of smaller bones around the skull, which was completely filled with sand."
"The skull and body (?) were lying face down and were buried towards the west, which is not common, as according to Balinese burial customs a corpse is usually buried with its head towards the northeast."
Sharp metal pieces
"What is so mysterious is that we found pieces of sharp metal of 2-3 cm long, which looked like they had been stabbed into the humerus, the upper arm (or perhaps hand bones?).
After asking a priest for advise, we reburied this skeleton in the back yard, in the corner of the quarantine cage. Pak Man, the landlord at Nusa Penida Bird Sanctuary at Bodong, Ped, said that some time before he had come across more than two skeletons when he built his own house there on the premises."
Exiled in a swamp
Tjakil remembers that Nusa Penida was once a place of exile for prisoners from the Rajahdom Klungkung, mainland Bali. According to popular belief, these banished prisoners were often killed around the Banjar Bodong. Bayu explains, furthermore, that the area was once a swamp, and this is the reason the skeletons have survived in rather good conditions.
- All images courtesy Friends of the National Parks Foundation, www.fnpf.org, 2007
- Interviews and personal correspondence with Bayu Wirayudha, Made 'Bombom' Widana, I Made 'Tjakil' Sugiarta, December 2013